Sunday, February 17, 2008

Book list

Original posting (2/15/08)
Well... I hadn't actually ordered any new books for awhile prior to this week, since I have had a foot-high stack on my bedroom dresser waiting for me for quite awhile. Over the past 2 months, I have worked my way through a great many of them. Some were 'junk food' books, silly novels with very little redeeming value other than the momentary enjoyment.

I'm still working on the book Augustus, by Anthony Everitt. I am enjoying it very much, not having spent a great deal of time studying this particular period in history in the past. I highly recommend it.

So, I am getting close to the bottom of the stack, although my in-progress reading of Crime and Punishment is still looming in my future. Today I ordered three new books for future reading:

They are:

Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis
Christ the Lord, the Road to Cana, by Anne Rice
The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton

I must admit, I would never have thought of reading Anne Rice's new book had it not been for the positive review that was given it by Richard John Neuhaus in First Things. I had read a few pages from her previous foray into the world of the non-vampire in her book Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt not long after it was initially published. I was a bit dismayed with her (fictional) portrayal of a story of how Jesus (as a boy in Egypt) caused another child to die (in a fit of pique). Now, I must say that her story line included Jesus bringing the boy back to life (and making everything fine), but that bit of artistic license convinced me not to continue reading the book.

So, I am taking Richard John Neuhaus' positive review on faith and hoping it will turn out better this time. The other two have been on my wish list for some time... I know I won't be disappointed.

Also in my book-reading stack are books on herbal remedies for children... bridge-playing techniques on bidding... yes, my taste is somewhat eclectic!
Postscript and update (2/17/08):
Firstly, I am honored that you visited my blog, Ms. Rice. I very much appreciate your taking the time to tell me about the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. I had done a quick online search of various apocryphal gospels after the posting by Scelata to try to find the account (of Jesus causing a child to die) in order to read the source text and had not had any success.
I found the text of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas online very interesting, although apocryphal. I was made a bit uneasy by the actual text, which has several accounts of Jesus’ purported ‘killing off’ of teachers/playmates that annoyed him. The same sort of reaction I had from my initial read of the account in Anne Rice’s first book about Jesus came to me when I read the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. The immediate reaction I had was that it just couldn’t be true. It does have that feel of a depiction of a pagan ‘child-god’, as referred to by Geoff Trowbridge in the excerpt below.
Following is an introduction by Geoff Trowbridge from the site I found:
“The Infancy Gospel of Thomas was probably the first of many attempts by the early Christians to document the first twelve years of Jesus's life, bridging the gap left in the second chapter of Luke. The original language of the text is unknown—Greek or Syriac are probable—but the story was popular enough to survive in numerous translations, redactions, and parallel stories, including several Egyptian infancy gospels, as late as the Protestant Reformation. The text may have influenced the authors of the Koran.
The gospel's portrayal of Jesus, though perhaps alarming to more orthodox sensibilities, would have been quite familiar to early Gentiles, as the young Christ displays all the precociousness, cleverness, and even destructiveness of the child-gods in pagan mythology. In the early passages of the story, Jesus shows a disturbing tendency to kill off his playmates when they displease him. He eventually learns to channel his divine abilities in more constructive ways and realizes his calling, culminating in the trip to the Jerusalem temple closely paralleled in Luke 2:41-52.
Claims of apostolic authorship were most likely a secondary development within the Syriac church, where most of the traditions surrounding Thomas originated. The oldest surviving text is a Syriac text from the sixth century, but the earliest known reference to the gospel was an unnamed citation by Iranæus c.185 C.E. Later references by Hippolytus and Origen may refer to the Infancy Gospel or the Gospel of Thomas, both of which were viewed as heretical due to their use by Gnostic Christians.”
I certainly understand that a certain amount of license must be taken in order to fill out a possible story of Jesus’ childhood, since there is very little about it in the Bible. After Mel Gibson’s amazing Passion of the Christ, I was very interested in the book he purportedly used as his inspiration for many of the details of his film – The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, from the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich. I found this account by a mystic very interesting and, in some ways, inspiring. It led me to continue reading more of her accounts, including The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Light on Light. However, with those accounts I cannot recall reading anything that seemed in contradiction with things we knew from the Bible or Church Tradition.
That being said, I still find the depiction of the child Jesus in this apocryphal 'gospel' as petulant and as doing violence on several occasions irreconcilable with the Jesus we know from the Gospels. This portrayal of Jesus as a person with this destructiveness and petulant anger would be more understandable if not for the fact that we know he was a child without the effects of original sin with which the rest of us are plagued. This tendency toward quick anger and the lack of humility displayed in these stories (with his teachers) doesn’t seem to coincide with our Divine Lord. The fact that the apocryphal books were condemned by the Church and not considered worthy of reading by Christians makes stories built around them troublesome.
I am certainly not a scholar in this field, so I acknowledge that I have a great deal yet to learn about the writings of the early Church fathers and the bulk of the Traditional writings of the Church. I would find it very interesting to hear what theological scholars have to say about the possible truth to these legends and how they either agree or are in disagreement with what we do know or can logically infer about Jesus’ life.I look forward with great anticipation to reading this new book! I’ll read it carefully and also pay close attention to any and all notes and bibliography provided.
Again, thanks very much, Ms. Rice.


Scelata said...

"I was a bit dismayed with her (fictional) portrayal of a story of how Jesus (as a boy in Egypt) caused another child to die (in a fit of pique). Now, I must say that her story line included Jesus bringing the boy back to life (and making everything fine), but that bit of artistic license convinced me not to continue reading the book."

I believe I have read somewhere of such a story in one of the ancient but apocryphal "gospels."

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

lvschant said...

Do you know which type of apocryphal "gospel" it was? Perhaps it had some historically accurate info., but just wasn't considered inspired? I have heard that one of the apocryphal 'gospels' referenced Joachim and Anna by name, for example --can't remember which one (James, perhaps?).

Did you read her Our of Egypt book?

Anne Rice said...

Thanks for your interest in my new books on Jesus. Regarding the legends of Jesus working miracles as a child, they do include the names of Anna and Joachim, and are in fact our only real source for stories of the Virgin's parents. But they are still legends. They also tell us a lot about St. Joseph. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is the one I used, and please not this has nothing to do with the "gospel of Thomas" touted by moderns as something sensational. I was careful in my use of legend. Again I thank you for your interest and your comments. Anne Rice.